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Comment Here's what I've been doing the past 10 years (Score 1) 142

I feel you. My wife and I travel to the US once or twice a year, and do want continuous connectivity. My experience: pay-as-you-go for data sucks in the US. Coverage is a problem. Americans can't call non-US numbers. If you want to use your cell connection as a broadband replacement, expect to pay through the nose.

Since some of our family live in the boondocks, T-Mobile and Sprint are not really an option, and even AT&T coverage is spotty. Having driven extensively through "fly over" country, Verizon seems to be the only provider with close to full coverage. As others have pointed out here, if you're mostly staying in cities (100k+), you might be OK with the others as well.

For the last four years, we had a Mifi on contract ($50/month), with 5G of data. Until this year, Verizon allowed suspending the contract when we were out of the country, and re-activating it just before we got to the US again. Unfortunately, the suspension is now limited to a max. of 90 days per year. Since most of our friends and family don't have international calls enabled on their contracts, they can't call our European numbers. So we did continue to have an AT&T Go SIM ($100/year to keep the account active). As others have pointed out, the pay-as-you-go options don't have international roaming enabled, or might not even offer it (boo AT&T), so dealing with that from abroad can be a pain. Before that, we tried various options, including VirginMobile (uses Sprint) and T-Mobile.

We've now convinced a friend to get us on his family plan with Verizon, and we have one iPhone (incl. tethering) on there for $15/month. We're sharing his 12GB data, which is good enough for our purposes. Since the phone is on contract, international roaming is available. We did buy the phone, so there's no SIM lock on it, and we can use it with other SIMs.

While in the US, we use about 1GB per week. Most nights, we're somewhere where we have Wifi, so it's mostly on the move usage (navigation in the car, music, FB posts, etc.) Hotel wifi mostly sucks, so when we're staying in a hotel, we're using the cell data. For large downloads or uploads, we try and wait until we're back on Wifi, but I've been syncing my photos and videos with iCloud and Dropbox as I'm taking them, so we're not completely constraining ourselves.

Comment Re:The State of Bavaria Holds the Copyright? (Score 4, Informative) 462

The Federal Republic is the successor to the Weimar Republic, so the state was not "destroyed". Apparently, when an estate goes to the state, it goes to the state (Bundesland) where the deceased was last registered to live, not Germany; Hitler was registered as living in Munich. That's why it's Bavaria.

Comment Re:Signage? Lighting? (Score 1) 90

Their train signals are mostly decoration, as well, even though the system controlling the trains follows similar rules to real-world trains, and could easily control signals as well.

On the other hand, the immersive qualities are really amazing. I bet you a good German beer that you won't hold the missing lighting and signage against them after having been there even just five minutes.

Comment Annoying, but maybe a silver lining? (Score 1) 451

Unless Oracle steps up and makes Mac OS X a primary platform for JDK releases, this might be rather annoying. Ultimately, I might be forced to do development on Linux or Windows. That would blow.

But maybe this decision encourages some group to package a kick ass JDK, and have more timely updates and developer snapshots... one can dream.

WIth the App store and Flash removal, I'm not keeping my hopes up though.

Comment Re:Avoid non-carrier providers! (Score 4, Informative) 153

I would only consider Vodafone and T-Mobile as your options, these two have established cell networks, all the others borrow on these networks and as such tend to be at the bottom of the traffic prioritization.

Nonsense. There's four network operators in Germany: T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus, and O2 Germany. While T-Mobile and Vodafone have a larger buildout (higher density, more towers in rural areas), E-Plus and O2 are not that far behind. I find that O2's network works really well in cities, with no noticable degradation compared to T-Mobile.

All four operators have their own "value" brands, and there's a couple of MVNOs, and as far as I can tell, no priorisation is in effect for any user. If you do have coverage, chances are that you will have excellent throughput. Nothing like certain US operators...

Comment Fonic (Score 3, Informative) 153

First T-Mobile USA has very little to do with T-Mobile Germany, except having the same owner. In fact, there's rumors that Deutsche Telekom wants to divest of T-Mobile USA, similarly to what the recently did in the UK. My experience has been that T-Mobile USA don't really care what's going on elsewhere in the world.

Fonic is a service brand of O2 Germany (owned by Telefonica), offering pay as you go prepaid services, both voice and data. Their data offering is 2.50 Euros per calendar day, for a maximum of 1 GB transfer volume. O2's UMTS network offers HSUPA with up to 3.6Mbps down, 384 kbps up. Their coverage tends to be concentrated in urban areas; rural areas might have no coverage. If you exceed the transfer volume, speed will be limited to 64kbps for that day. Adding credit to the account can be done through credit card, direct debit from a German bank account, or by purchasing vouchers available at many stores. The sell a USB data stick for 60 Euros.

There's a couple more offerings, but most come with additional strings attached. With any offering, you technically will need a residency permit in the EU, with appropriate paperwork; some shops are less stringent than others. If you do have friends in Germany, have them order the package online in advance. You might want to get a seperate prepaid SIM for voice service as well, instead of international roaming.

Finally, if you do have friends living in Germany, ask them if their DSL or cable provider has good deals on package extensions for mobile data options. For example, Alice offers up to ten SIM cards for free, and has a 6 Euro per month data option available. Billing would go to whomever is paying for the DSL/Cable.

Finally, have fun!

Comment Re:The facts about urban wireless towers (Score 1) 791

Why do you think a sector antenna would be emitting only -40 dBm? That is on the level of a micro- or nano cell. The maximum allowable is well north of 10 kW EIRP, so even if that cell is tuned down to only cover a small sector, it still will be putting out 40 to 50 dBm. Otherwise, as you rightly state, reception inside builings would be nearly impossible.

I don't particularly believe in electro-sensitivity, so wouln't be too concerned even with that number, but I still would feel a bit uneasy about potential power levels. Maybe it's worthwile checking FCC permits for this particular site and the actual max. EIRP they're allowed to push out. Shielding those walls with copper mesh wall paper probably puts you right with the tinfoil hat brigade, but might avoid potential interference of any wireless equipment you might want to use.

Comment Effective way to keep screens locked (Score 4, Funny) 336

A bank I did some consulting work for had a very effective cultural rule to force people to lock their machines when they left their desks: if you find an unlocked machine, pull up the email client and send a message to everyone: "today's my birthday, drinks on me after work!" (other NSFW messages left to the readers imagination.)

Apparently, very few people left their machines unlocked more than once...

Comment Re:16 years (Score 1) 633

- Remember 8250 UART serial ports? Long dead.

Maybe 8250 chips have been superseded, but 8250 compatible ports continue to be available on many mainboards. And there's always USB adapters. And given how cheap a serial port is to implement, I'm sure we will continue to see it for at least service access to many devices going forward.

- Remember 2400bps modems? Long dead. How about accoustic couplers?

Again, V.22bis only modems are not sold anymore, but practically any modem that support V.92 will also support V.22 (and probably Bell 212 and even Bell 103 modes). And accoustic couplers do the same thing, but were motivated mostly by the insistence of Bell that you couldn't hook up your own equipment to the phone line directly. Until high-speed links get a better coverage, people in the boondocks will continue to rely on modems to get online.

- We had pensioned CGA and EGA - and gone for VGA by 1993. SVGA came soon afterwards.

But the VGA signal standard (plug, levels, etc.) has continued to work, and even fancy new 24" 1920x1200 monitors will display a 640x480@60Hz signal, just because creaky old BIOSes still start up with this or other equally outdated video modes.

Comment Re:Slow news day from what it sounds like... (Score 1) 203

The use of TWT in satellites are recent, as in 25-30 years ago.

Huh?! Traveling-wave tube:

On July 10, 1962, the first communications satellite, Telstar 1, was launched with a 2 W, 4 GHz RCA-designed TWT transponder used for transmitting RF signals back to the earth. Syncom 2, the first synchronous satellite (Syncom 1 did not reach its final orbit), launched on July 26, 1963 with two 2 W, 1850 MHz Hughes-designed TWT transponders (one active and one spare).

If you can't learn to do it well, learn to enjoy doing it badly.